C.D.Cal.: The ledge outside an apartment window is not part of the curtilage

Defendant’s apartment had a box placed out on the ledge below a window visible to passersby. This was not part of the curtilage because it was visible and accessible to others. (Moreover, officers got a search warrant for it. ) United States v. Buck, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56073 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 24, 2021):

Furthermore, the ledge is not within the curtilage of defendant’s apartment. “[T]he Fourth Amendment protects the curtilage of a house and [] the extent of the curtilage is determined by factors that bear upon whether an individual reasonably may expect that the area in question should be treated as the home itself.” United States v. Dunn, 480 U.S. 294, 300 (1987) (citation omitted). “[T]he central component of this inquiry [is] whether the area harbors the intimate activity associated with the sanctity of a man’s home and the privacies of life.” Id. (quotation omitted). Courts consider four factors when determining whether an area is within the curtilage of a home: “[1] the proximity of the area claimed to be curtilage to the home, [2] whether the area is included within an enclosure surrounding the home, [3] the nature of the uses to which the area is put, and [4] the steps taken by the resident to protect the area from observation by people passing by.” Id. (citations omitted).

Here, it cannot reasonably be said that a shared ledge a floor below defendant’s window, to which defendant does not enjoy access and which is visible to passersby, “harbors the intimate activity associated with the sanctity of [defendant’s] home and the privacies of life.” Dunn, 480 U.S. at 300. Applying the Dunn factors confirms this conclusion. First, although the ledge protrudes from the side of the building, it is approximately 30 feet below defendant’s apartment, so the proximity does not weigh in favor of finding the ledge is curtilage. Second, the area is not included in the enclosure surrounding the home because there is no fence or other barrier around the ledge and the ledge is accessible from the driveway. Third, although the record does not contain evidence of the nature of the uses to which the ledge is put, it appears to be put to no uses by defendant or anyone else. Finally, defendant has taken no steps to protect the ledge from observation by passersby. Accordingly, the ledge is not curtilage, and defendant does not enjoy a Fourth Amendment interest there.

Moreover, even if the ledge were curtilage, the fact remains that the deputies obtained a search warrant prior to searching the package.

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